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'Unpleasantly surprised' - Azerbaijan FA fires back at Klopp over 'irresponsible' Europa League final remarks

11:23 BST 14/05/2019
Jurgen Klopp Liverpool 2018-19
Fans of Chelsea and Arsenal face a near 6,000-mile round trip from London to watch the final of UEFA's second tier competition in Azerbaijan

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has been criticised by the Azerbaijan FA after describing UEFA's choice of Baku as the location for the Europa League final as "irresponsible".

Chelsea and Arsenal will meet in an all-English final on May 29 with supporters of the London clubs facing a round trip of almost 6,000 miles to get to the city on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Klopp, who will take his team to Madrid to face Tottenham in the Champions League final , ridiculed the decision to hold the showpiece game of the second tier competition in the far east of Europe.

He told reporters: "With Madrid it’s unbelievably expensive, but it’s not another part of the world at least. Going to Baku for a Europa League final is really funny, I think.

"The guys who make the decisions, I don’t know what they have for breakfast!

"Last year we went to Kiev, which is a wonderful city, but that a Russian team or a team from that part of the world would be involved is not really likely. Then they had to prepare.

"Now Madrid has to prepare for 200,000 English fans, but it knew already that it could happen. Baku, I don’t even know how to go there, if there is any regular flight.

"These decisions, they must be much more sensible and reasonable. It looks irresponsible."

Arsenal boss Unai Emery also bemoaned the location, saying: "I prefer to play closer to London because we’re two English teams and we could move a lot of fans with us.

"I don’t know why UEFA has decided to play there. The stadium is going to be full, but not with our fans and Chelsea fans."

The Azerbaijan FA have now issued a response to Klopp's comments, with general secretary Elkhan Mammadov saying he was "unpleasantly surprised" by what the German had to say.

"I was unpleasantly surprised by the remarks of Jürgen Klopp. He always gave an impression of a very positive person," he told Azerbaijani news agency Trend.

"Moreover, we all know that he is a great specialist who has achieved really outstanding results in football.

"But with all this, I strongly disagree with his opinion that football should be geographically limited.

"We must respect and promote the values of football. And one of our main values is the expansion of the boundaries of football and its globalisation.

"Europe has long gone beyond the borders of the countries of the western part of this continent.

"And I am convinced that holding European Championship matches and European Cup finals in Eastern Europe opens up new opportunities for developing football in these countries, serves to make it more popular among the younger generation, attracts young people to football.

"The same can be said about the organization of the Champions League final in Kiev or 10 years ago in Istanbul.

"I agree that getting to Baku by bus from London will be difficult, but [since] when was the distance a barrier for real fans?

"I want to remind you that three cities participated in the tender for the final: Seville, Istanbul and Baku. No one limited the ability of other countries to participate.

“I am sure that there will be a real football holiday in Baku. And I am also confident that the same will happen in Madrid."